Memorandum submitted to the Committee
by Alistair J MacDonald BEng CEng MIEE
1. I am a 39 year old graduate engineer
working as a manager with UKAEA at Dounreay. I have lived in Caithness
since 1973 other that a period at University. I started work at
Dounreay in 1987 and have carried out a wide range of jobs at
the facility. This evidence is givennot as a representative
of UKAEAbut as an individual living in Caithness.
2. I am married and we have two of a familyone
is currently studying at college out with the area and is unlikely
to come back to Caithness due to a lack of employment in her chosen
career. The younger one is currently in primary school.
(Specifically for the Caithness region) the future
job prospects for people currently employed at the plant when
it is finally decommissioned
3. Future job prospects are limited because
there is very little other professional employment in Caithness.
A significant amount of professional employment is directly related
to supporting Dounreay. There are very little alternative opportunities
for staff at Dounreay to seek alternative careers or employment
while being able to remain in the area.
4. Currently it is very difficult to encourage
professional people to come to Caithness. This is going to create
a longer term problem. If we cannot secure staff such as dentists,
doctors, medical consultants and clergy to come to Caithness then
our community infrastructure will slowly crumble. I believe that
work needs to be carried out to understand this situation and
take positive action to prevent this escalating.
5. A significant amount (25%) of employment
in the Highland Region is in local government. However, over recent
years there has been a move to carry out more and more local government
services centrally in Inverness. While this no doubt increases
efficiency in the short term it could be that over the longer
term this is to the detriment of the whole of the Highlandsis
Inverness thriving at the expense of the outlying areas? Positive
action needs to be taken to correct this.
6. The local enterprise companyCaithness
and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE)is the organisation charged
with the development of business and employment in our area. They
have done some good work as they encourage training and development
and support specific proposals made by applicants for new business
ideas and respond to market demands. The fact that business parks
are now constructed in Wick and Thurso is positive as this is
helping to create the infrastructure for long term growth. I do
wonder though is this to the detriment of the town centres as
there are many buildings lying in disrepair in both towns that
could be developed and used for business purposes which would
also enhancing the towns.
7. Over the last few years CASE has been
putting a lot of emphasis on making sure that local (and not so
local) businesses benefit from the money that is being spent on
decommissioning Dounreay. While this is commendable, and CASE
may be able to help better equip local businesses benefit from
Dounreay in the short term, I think that the emphasis of CASE
should increasingly be more on the longer term and focusing on
the development of our area as decommissioning progresses.
8. Within CASE there is a department called
the Decommissioning Task Force. There is little visible output
from this department which has been set up to look at the longer
term strategic issues associate with the decommissioning of Dounreay.
Perhaps this department needs more resource and staff to be of
benefit. A Strategy document (undated) is available and while
there are a lot of good points made in that document there is
comparatively little emphasis put on attracting inward investment
or looking forward to the situation once expenditure at Dounreay
9. Much is made of the future Decommissioning
Market and a lot of effort is being put into getting Caithness
ready to capitalise on the large decommissioning market. While
this is positive, especially if it attracts or levers European
finance, it should be remembered that most other owners of nuclear
liabilities will be Government Agencies and will probably be trying
to make best use of their existing workforce to decommission their
facilities. There has been very little decommissioning work won
by UK companies in foreign markets to date. While the levels of
expenditure on the world decommissioning market may be very large
the amount of money that will be available for businesses in Caithness
will be relatively small.
10. The Highland Council also has a responsibility
for the economic development of the area. I wonder do CASE and
the Highland Council work well together. The minutes of the North
Highland Local Economic Forum highlight some areas where there
is cross fertilisation between the various development organisations
but it is hard to see where a clear strategic look at the future
of Caithness is being taken and where action is being taken to
make this happen. This is an important issue and perhaps it needs
a dedicated team of people set up to develop and deliver a strategy
for the future of Caithness.
11. I believe that a vision needs to be
created for a future Caithness. We need to have some aspirations
for what we expect Caithness to look like from an economic point
of view in 15-20 years time as expenditure at Dounreay declines.
We need to then take action to realise that vision. Some questions
that could be considered are:
Do we try to encourage more industry
to Caithness? Should this be diverse or one major employer? Should
we target the service sector or manufacturing? Is there proper
marketing and selling being done? We have seen manufacturing businesses
fail in Caithness because of a poor market understanding.
What about a new power plant in Caithness.
While this might be good because we have a workforce that can
operate power plants we do have to remember that the electricity
is not needed here and while in the past we had high numbers of
staff operating nuclear power plants, modern facilities need much
less staff. The Dounreay facility was, and still is, a high employer
of staff not simply because of the power plant but because of
the reprocessing and R&D associated with it.
Is there value in trying to expand
the tourism sector? Our part of the country does less well out
of tourism than other areas in the Highlands.
Alternatively do we simply plan to
make Caithness a place to retire to?
12. To summarise it is time to take a longer
term strategic look at the economic future for Caithness. As a
layman it is not apparent that this is happening and it is also
not clear that the current set of organisations dealing with economic
development are organised to make this happen. Perhaps the day
to day tactical issues like funding for training, funding for
marketing and small new businesses needs to be clearly separated
from longer term strategic development. Perhaps in the medium
term experienced staff from within UKAEA and similar organisations
could be utilised to assist with assessment and development of
a longer term strategy. We need to be proactive in this areanot
The long-term strategy for the management of radioactive
waste, in particular, intermediate-level waste
13. I don't believe that this should be
dealt with as a parochially Scottish issue. It is an issue of
14. The letter attached to this memorandum
details my recent response to the recent CoRWM public consultation
exercise. In the main the Government is proceeding in a way that
should give a good result but I believe that special steps should
be taken to ensure that CoRWM (or other bodies charged with solving
this problem) are properly and fully resourced with the correct
level of people. In addition the timescales must not be dragged
out and the focus must not simply be in intermediate level waste
but on all the waste streams from the nuclear legacy.
15. If new capacity is needed by operators
to store conditioned solid intermediate-level waste on site that
results in a need for local storage then that should be encouraged.
How can the shortfall in energy output be met
once nuclear power no longer provides Scotland's energy needs?
16. The question is very specific and relates
to Scotland. Firstly the scale of the problem needs to be understood.
A quick assessment of UK Government statistics indicates that
for the year of 2002 we generated 49,555 GWh of electricity but
we only consumed 33,680 GWh in Scotland. This difference is surprisingly
close to the amount generated by Nuclear Power which was 15,863
GWh in Scotland. We exported 6,000 GWh to England and also exported
to Northern Ireland. Therefore I suggest that we need to understand
the problem. What will happen when Torness and Hunterston and
switched off? What will the true impact be? As environmental regulations
get tighter should we be more worried about Longannet and Cockenzie
being switched off?
17. Does anyone actually understand what
will happen as nuclear power plants are switched off? The DTI/OFGEM
Joint Energy Security of Supply Working Group (JESS) looks at
the security of supply nationally but doesn't appear to at a Scottish
levelin fact for electricity Scottish data is currently
not assessed. JESS only looks seven years aheadthis is
too short given that the current policy is to allow the market
to deal with the problem. I am sure that the energy position of
the UK is best dealt with at a UK level and not at a Scottish
18. The UK Energy Policy is mixed up or
non existent. This leaves the strategy to be driven by market
forces. The issue is too important and the government must be
in control. It cannot be left to the short term whims of the market
19. There is currently too much dependence
on renewable energy and onshore wind in particular. Developers
are only interested in being involved where there is money to
be made. This is not a solution to energy problems. We also appear
to be very dependent on imports of gas into the future from Europe
20. More work needs to be carried out to
develop an energy policy for the UK. First we fully need to understand
the problem, understand the options available to us and then we
need to develop a range of scenarios.
21. It is very likely that new nuclear build
will be a part of a well developed UK energy strategy. This will
be because from an economic and environmental point of view it
will be better than the alternatives. The questions will be:
Can we actually build new nuclear
power stations? Will we be ale to secure Section 36 permissions?
The answers will be positive to this if we can explain to the
general public why this is the best option and the location is
Should they be built in Scotland?
At present the answer would appear to be no, but there are undoubtedly
viable locations in Scotland that could be considered. However,
factors such as security of supply and transmission losses may
dictate that Scotland is not the best location. On the other handif
the infrastructure can cope with new nuclear build in Scotlandthen
22. If the UK planned new nuclear build
in the near future then the options are limited to either a European
Pressurised Reactors supplied by France and Germanythey
are currently building one in Finland, or to an American Westinghouse
design. In the longer term it will be likely that one of the reactor
types being developed by the Generation IV International Forum
(GIF) programme will be chosen. Currently the UK Government only
supports this programme in a very limited way. Perhaps it is in
the long term interests of the Government to support this in a
more significant way.
23. One of the key GIF technologies as based
around a Sodium Cooled fast reactorsimilar to the PFR currently
being decommissioned at Dounreay. The UK is in danger of losing
all its knowledge about this to other countries at bestor
at worst simply losing the data gained from years of reactor build,
operation and decommissioning. A decision is neededdo we
preserve this knowledge or not.
24. At this stage the government should
perhaps consider setting up a body dedicated to assessing the
need and viability of constructing new nuclear plant and then
moving on to implementing this if appropriate.
25. The newly formed Nuclear Decommissioning
Agency (NDA) must remain focused on showing that decommissioning
can be done economically and dealing with the current legacy liabilities.
12 January 2005